Dec 5, 2007

NAD advises Bayer to temper claims

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus is recommending Bayer Healthcare modify or discontinue certain claims surrounding its Vital and Sharp Mind supplement.

NAD, the Federal Trade Commission and industry trade associations have been targeting the marketing claims of supplement makers. Because this move involves a large player in the health industry getting its knuckles rapped by a monitoring body, it could send out warning signals to smaller companies about being more careful in marketing their products.

From an industry standpoint the aim is to level the playing field so that those companies that do practice sensible marketing are not negatively affected by those companies making outlandish claims.

Vital & Sharp Mind contains the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) to support healthy brain function, B vitamins to support mental energy, as well as ginkgo biloba for memory and concentration.

Among the claims made by Bayer that NAD found no fault with following its review are that Vital & Sharp Mind "supports memory, mental sharpness, and healthy brain function", as well as that it promotes "memory, concentration, and mental sharpness," and can "keep your mind vital and active."

However, the organization concluded following the review that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim made in a television commercial that Vital & Sharp Mind could assist healthy adults in recalling a list of items that was recited moments earlier:

"Remember their names? If not, try new Vital & Sharp Mind from Bayer Nutritional Science," stated the commercial.

According to NAD, this claim suggests the product can actually assist healthy adults in recalling a list of names that was recited moments earlier. The agency says this level of effectiveness goes beyond the general claim made by Bayer that the product "supports" memory and as such requires further scientific evidence.

NAD has recommended Bayer discontinue the claim and avoid making similar claims in future advertising for the product. In addition, it has challenged the claim that B vitamins "support mental energy" and recommended that this claim be either discontinued or modified by limiting the claim to the B vitamins' role in the metabolic process.

Bayer responded to the NAD that its evaluation of evidence relating B vitamins to mental energy was incorrect. However, the company has indicated that the advertising at issue has wrapped up and as such Bayer will take NAD's concerns into account for future advertising of the product.

The pharmaceutical, over-the-counter and dietary supplement giant this year launched a line of supplements - which includes Vital & Sharp Mind - geared towards baby boomers. By Clarisse Douaud,